Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fritzy's World

Fritzy. She wandered into our apartment complex in New Delhi some weeks ago and decided to make it her home. Many of us residents took care of her - feeding her and loving her. She was mostly white with some patches of golden brown painted across her back. A splatter of light brown gave character to her otherwise large and pointy ears that looked a little big for her narrow face. Her eyes were doe-like, beautifully shaped - the kind that could turn every gaze into a soulful plea.

I first met her was when I took Mitraa, our pet dog who we adopted off the streets a year ago, for her evening walk. Fritzy came bounding up to us, her scrawny tail wagging tentatively. Not the overbearing kind, she stopped just short of us to gauge my reaction. Like she was asking for my permission to play with Mitraa.

Mitraa is usually not one who takes very kindly to her fellow brethren on the streets. The feeling is mutual - her fellow brethren don't have a high opinion of her either. They usually dismiss her with a look of disdain and a deep throated growl, while she struggles to break free of the leash and lunge at them. When this happens, the human caught in the crossfire, which often happens to be my Dad or me, is in an unenviable position - barely managing to maintain a grip on the leash and avert an ambush in the making. Mitraa thinks she can take them on single-handedly. We have often tried breaking it to her that she is sorely mistaken on this count.

But with Fritzy, it was different. She and Mitraa took to one another like fish to water. The introductions were tentative. They sniffed each other in all the wrong places. Once that was out of the way, though, they jumped onto each other, frolicked in the mud, pawed one another, and generally made complete monkeys of themselves. Fritzy was all about gentle play. Mitraa, on the other hand, has an exuberant personality. She's more "hands on". Fritzy would begin the duel by nudging Mitraa with her nose. It was like she was saying "come on, don't be a bore - let's play!” Mitraa obviously took Fritzy's jibes very seriously. She would put her paws onto Fritzy's back and give her a little kick. That would get Fritzy all riled up and she would nudge Mitraa back. Then they'd go round and round in circles, chasing one another. Fritzy enjoyed it thoroughly. She loved instigating Mitraa and having her lead the play session.

During these play sessions, however, Mitraa always had her leash on. If that ever came off, she would go running off towards the not-so-friendly stray dogs who sit in the lane parallel to ours. An encounter like that could be dangerous for Mitraa so even though we love all the stray dogs in our complex - we even feed them - we do make sure that Mitraa stays away from them.

That evening, I watched in glee while Fritzy and Mitraa played cat and mouse. A few minutes later, I felt her leash go limp in my hand. Mitraa had wiggled out of her collar! In the next millisecond, here's what happened. I looked at Mitraa, and she looked up at me. Our eyes went big with surprise for different reasons. The glee that shone in her eyes was in stark contrast to the horror writ across mine. Mitraa was quicker than me. Before I could say or do anything, she went charging away with Fritzy. Fritzy couldn't believe her good fortune. She finally had the dog all to herself without the human in tow. I knew, though, that if Mitraa saw the other stray dogs, she would get into a fight and would probably not come out alive. I went running after Mitraa and Fritzy, screaming Mitraa's name. She saw me run towards her and thought this was a game so she began running even faster in the opposite direction. Fritzy was on a high - this was way too much excitement for her all of a sudden.

As both of them ran, they suddenly veered towards the left and were gone. When I reached the spot, I realized that they had run into the neighbor's garden. The gate was left ajar, so I quickly closed and bolted the gate from outside. Fritzy and Mitraa were all over each other in the garden.

Meanwhile, the neighbor's dog - a sausage dog - waddled out the main door, curious about the commotion in his garden. He had barely appeared on the porch, when Mitraa and Fritzy pounced on him. They had found a new, albeit unwilling, playmate. The commotion got even louder, and the neighbors - humans this time - came running out into the garden and screamed when they saw their dog being manhandled by two street dogs.

Unable to bear this anymore, I opened the gate and went dashing in. I managed to get my arms around Mitraa. You can imagine the neighbor’s horror when they saw a man run into their garden unannounced. In the ensuing melee, however, I accidentally left the garden gate open and sausage dog thought it a perfect time to take an evening stroll. With Mitraa in my arms, and Fritzy - in a state of hyper-ventilation - trotting behind me, I went running after sausage dog. I had nearly caught up with him, when he stopped in his tracks and looked back at me over his left shoulder. He gave me a disgusted look that said "I'm not a menace like your street dog. I can handle myself perfectly well in the outdoors." I did not attempt to question his conviction. By then, the human neighbors had arrived and sausage dog was in safe hands.

Mitraa slept like a log that night, and Fritzy looked dizzy with excitement even the next day.

Some days ago, we got to know that Fritzy passed away. She was hit by a speeding car when she wandered onto the road outside. She had mustered every last bit of strength to crawl back inside the gate, and that's where she breathed her last. No one was around when this happened. By the time we were alerted, it was too late. 

When I heard the news, my eyes welled up with tears. I hugged Mitraa real tight - hoping that some of the extra love would somehow be sent over to Fritzy.

Just that morning, Dad had seen Fritzy galloping around the park with Blackie, another gentle stray dog who had become her constant companion.

These days, whenever I drive through the gate and park my car, I feel a heaviness come over me. I miss seeing beautiful Fritzy come bounding up to me, her tail wagging. I miss looking into her pleading eyes, giving her a rub on the head, and watching the pleading turn to pure contentment.

I look over my shoulder and see Blackie sitting beside the entrance to the park, his head resting between his front paws. It looks to me like he patiently waits for his playmate to return.

(Photograph courtesy Michelle Lohutko)

Article also posted on my blog.


Katherine Jenkins said...

This was very touching Sai! Beautiful!

BarbaraK Harrison said...

What a beautiful story, all the elements of happy and sad, and action. There's a lesson in this!

BarbaraK Harrison said...

This is a great site, thank you Katherine.

Deb said...

Oh... you made me laugh and cry all in the one post... this one is close to home for me as we had a near call with our little pooch this week too. They are such awesome little buddies for us... we really have to treasure them while they are around.